The Microsoft Surface Is Safe From Apple’s Zealous Patent Lawyers

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Compare the Microsoft Surface to the iPad: They are both thin slate devices with black bezels. Likewise, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is also a thin slate device with a black bezel. Except only one of these companies is suing the other.

It was revealed today in the third week of the Apple/Samsung courtroom battle that Microsoft is licensing several unnamed Apple design patents for the Surface. This deal reportedly stems from Microsoft and Apple’s long-standing cross-licensing agreement. There are some caveats but it seems for the most part that Microsoft is safe from Apple’s legal hounds — and therefore the Surface has an edge on the tablet market.

Reuters reports that this deal contains a so-called anti-cloning provision, which prevents the two companies from copying (i.e. cloning) each others devices.

According to Apple’s patent director, Boris Teksler, Apple rarely licences these patents. He said he could count on one hand how many times Apple has offered to do so. That includes at least one offer to Samsung which the Korean company supposedly turned down.

Apple vigorously defends its patents and trademarks. Just ask Samsung. The two companies are currently locked in a heated trial. According to Apple, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and smartphone is a bit too similar to the iPad and iPhone. In fact it was revealed last week that Apple approached Samsung in 2010 and offered to license its design patents for $30 per phone and $40 per tablet sold. Samsung said no to the offer and continued releasing products that are eerily similar to Apple’s. And now the two are battling it out in court.

The iPad dominates the tablet market thanks in part to its simple design. For the most part Samsung replicated the iPad’s design cues, but did so without the proper licences. But Microsoft got the nod from Apple and it’s hard to deny that the Surface is a good-looking tab. Now, if Microsoft can price it properly, the Surface could be the next big tablet and Apple’s lawyers cannot do a thing about it as long as Microsoft plays by the aforementioned rules.